Danger Danger…. The Danger Bay 2018 Report

18Jul

Back in the heady days of 2004 we were contacted by Bricin “Striker” Lyons – the organiser of the now famous Danger Bay race in Vancouver. We sent him some boards as prizes and in return received some pictures of someone winning one of them by shooting a huge beer bong made from duct tape and cans. Since then all of us here at Lush have wanted to get out to this legendary event – Fast forward a few years and Pete finally made it! Here’s his take…

Danger Bay, Pender Harbour, Canada. The longest running international race there is, home of Coast Longboarding and Team Green; the heart and soul of a whole scene that has given birth to some of the best DH skaters on the planet. They have lifted the standards of what we can do on our boards continually. Despite being in its 17th(!) year, this event is far from long in the tooth and neither is their scene, with some of the most lit young skaters training together, such as the likes of Team Irene – following in the thane lines of the World Champions that have come before them….

Despite knowing Scott “Scoot” Smith, Rylan “Raggie” English and Bricin “Striker” Lyons for over a decade and having a few skate trips in Canada under my belt, I had never managed to make a Danger Bay. With Striker moving to the east coast of Canada to start the Church of Skatan, a downhill hostel come museum, he put a call out that this may well be the last of the Danger Bays! I had to make this one. Life was busy and taking time for skating had mixed priorities, but missing this would be a big regret. About 10 days before the event, I booked flights for my wife Zoë and I to make it happen!

Landing in Vancouver and staying a night, I got the chance to call by Flatspot Longboard shop and catch the owner Les Robertson for a chat. A cool grass roots store that looks after its scene and supports events, complete with a wooden bowl and a dead helmet collection, it’s a great place for the DH Family. Les had put Striker and his wife and kids up out the back of the shop for a few days while they were in town. I took the opportunity to go wake up a sleeping Striker with a pillow fight and say hello to my old friend, it had been too many years! We chatted shit excitedly and suddenly it was real, I was going to Danger Bay!

I took a couple of days sightseeing and skated some of the BC classics like Britannia and Cypress while on the road. Taking the ferry over to Langdale, Sunshine Coast, was new ground for me, the scenery of where the Rocky Mountains roll into the ocean is stunning and it can’t help but lift your mood. Driving the Sunshine Coast Highway into Pender Harbour had me grinning from ear to ear. We rocked up in the afternoon for dinner at the Grasshopper Bar where we met up with Striker and a couple of local skaters. The Grasshopper had an amazing balcony that looked out over the bay and caught the evening sunset over the mountains, this was a great spot to find on day one!

Next morning I went on my usual quest when I arrive at any new track. Go walk the hill. I drove out to the Danger Bay track, parked up and went for a walk. Looking at the lumpy, gravel ridden, cracked up collection of chunder that was the track, I had to laugh; one of the worst condition tracks I have skated on, including the UKDH races!

I got a feel for it though and decided, on a track like that, the Skate Gods decide who advances and who’s in the hay. My best laid plans meant nothing here, just skate my best and see where that takes me!

Part of Danger Bay is getting the opportunity to skate the local spots. Often at events we are asked not to skate the local roads, DB is the opposite. Random skate sessions are popping up all over the place, (except for the Danger Bay track itself).

Dump Road is a Team Green oldie and I head there to see what it’s all about. Arriving I’m not disappointed, there is a crew of about six people skating already, running uplifts in an open back pickup truck. I grab my board and say hello, they are welcoming and in moments I am dropping runs on the hill in a pack of friendly faces. Chatting on the uplifts I learn that they are from different places and most haven’t met before, it’s not an organised skate, just these are the people at Dump Road in that moment. A few more skaters join us and I start enjoying the road. There is a good left sweeper that you can nail in your tuck; it gets me finding my body positions again and feeling good on my board. The local community here don’t view us as a nuisance and we get plenty of waves from passing traffic; there is even a sign “Watch for Longboards” on one of the pull outs onto the hill, this is a great vibe where as a DH skater you feel like you belong. I leave after a couple of hours and have made a few new friends already, I’m liking Danger Bay…..

Heading back to town for a coffee I bump into Billy “Bones” Meiners, the Landyatchz Team Manager. We haven’t seen each other since he was last on Euro tour in 2015, so we grab a coffee at Java Docks and have a good chin wag. Billy isn’t racing this year, he is just in town to deal with event media for Landyatchz, he did however have his board with him…. We decide to take the opportunity to go skate together and have some fun before the event gets rolling in earnest. Driving a few miles up the road we arrive at the Jake’s Rash track. Skating in shorts and t-shirts on the open road we keep it really chilled, holding our lane. It feels great to take some lines with a friend I haven’t skated with for years, the sun is beaming and it’s nothing but miles of smiles. We take about five runs and I start to get a feel for the road, at least I recognise what section to expect next on this fairly long track. Billy is an effortless skater who flows the track with ease, by the time we are done I’m feeling comfortable on my board and the road. It’s been a good days skating. We head back to the Grasshopper to catch the sunset on their balcony and have a beer with some good food, this place is rocking.

The campsite is filling out now and the night rolls in. There are thrash metal and punk bands playing in a clearing in the woods, lit by car headlights. Fires pits are spread throughout the large grounds and there is a lot of energy about. I find the Team Green campfire and sink some beers with Scoot and Sandman. I’m not planning on an early start in the morning so I enjoy the moment and finish a perfect Danger Bay day.

Saturday is May Day Parade, Pirate themed this year. Zoë has sorted some Pirate head scarfs and eye patches and we rock up ready for the day. After the previous night I feel like I’m rolling on the deck of a ship too. This is when ‘Rage in the Cage’ goes down, skate hockey. It’s savage. Scoot is trying to stay out of the cage and in one piece for racing, unfortunately for him Team Green is a man short. He ends up getting signed up for his team and finds himself in goal, a hazardous place to be with the likes of King Brian in the cage! Hockey plays out for a few hours, Team Green and Team Irene smash it to the final, eliminating the mighty Landyatchz team with their star player Tom ‘Meatball’ Edstrand. The injuries are many, black eyes, more road rash than from skating, Scoot took a Hockey stick to the hand and can barely close it, Sandman’s foot will be hurting for a while…. I’m glad I don’t play Hockey!

In the afternoon my mind starts to drift to skating, time to head back to Jake’s Rash. I spend a few hours skating the road again, I like it, it’s my kind of hill. Rip N Grip with several up hill crests in corners that make you compress. Being a heavy guy here is going to play to my favour and I decide I’m in with a shot here. My biggest problem is learning the hill, lines really matter on Jake’s and there are a few sections of road that are rough and gnarly. Lots of the fastest people have been riding Rash for years, I need some more practice. My legs are starting to burn and I have to race in the morning, time to call it day.

It’s Danger Bay Race Day! I meet up with Scoot and the rest of Team Green at 7am for coffee and breakfast at Java Docks and we roll out together. Scoot’s friend lives on the track and we have permission to park on their driveway, right on the entrance of Carnage Corner. Scoot walks the track with me and gives me a few much appreciated pointers, the Skate Gods are laughing at the carnage that is to come.

Practice runs have no uplift. Even though I’m sapping energy hiking, I keep marching up the hill, I will only need stamina reserves if I advance, and unless I work out a line through Carnage Corner, that wont be happening! To make my life worse Striker has called a new rule for Open Class. “No Hands Down & No Grab Rail” WTF! Trying to surf the chunder at the apex is hard! I make the corner three times before pushing my entry speed too much and smack the hay wall a good one. Thankfully the rider behind me doesn’t pile-driver me and I get the hell out the track without significant injury. At least that’s crashing out of the way.

Time to race then.

There is no qualification here, just random brackets. I look at my quadrant of brackets, could be worse, could be better, I will take it. Adam Persson is in the first heat, he arrives at Carnage Corner well ahead of the pack, chills but hits some stones, PUCK DOWN, DISQUALIFIED.

Adam has gone out in the first heat of the first round. This is going to be hard.

Round one I have a fast dude called Clayton (Clay) Arthurs in my heat, coming into carnage we break tuck and look around, we have dropped the other two so we start chilling. Clay opens his suit and chills a bit more than me, I nearly run him into the hay and NEARLY grab rail to avoid him, damn that was close! I decide I will make the pass before Carnage Corner next time!

Second round, same again, me and Clay out front, he comes up and unzips his suit, I nip past for a clean line in Carnage, much better. Third round, it’s a bit more stacked now, we all set up for Carnage in a pack, I’m out front and try and keep my speed up. I’m too hot and the chunder at the apex chucks me about, I grab rail, puck down and still scrub out and crash the hay! Damn. At least there is the Dirty Thirties Class to race still, this year it’s fairly stacked, plenty of veteran racers here with Hugh Johnston, Raggie, Scoot and Kyle Martin to name just a few….

Dirty Thirties kicks off and I’m racing Hugh first round. I pull out front and get a clean line for Carnage, I can grab rail and put my puck down now I am not in Open Class! What a difference, now I’m on familiar turf and can soak up the chunder at the apex of Carnage Corner. Just like skating in Wales, haha. People are getting me on the push, but then I’m getting a good draft into the uphill crest before Carnage and can pass and get a clean line for the corner. I start advancing through the brackets.

Next bracket I meet Scoot who is still in the Open Class bracket, as well as Thirties, he has won every one of his heats so far. I pass him on the uphill crest, but he re-passes me into Carnage, I exit the corner in his draft and overtake before the final right, damn! First man to nip past Scoot on his home track this year. This gets me into the Thirties final and I realise I’m in with a shot!

The Final is Raggie, Scoot, Kyle and myself. Two Team Green, I feel a Canadian tag team move coming on, not to mention Kyle Martin who hasn’t lost a heat yet…. Kyle and Scoot kick out front and I get a nice double draft, they battle a little leaving the inside open before the uphill crest, I take it and steamroller through, but Raggie has my draft and gets sucked through with me.

As I uncurl and set up for Carnage, Raggie passes up the inside taking up valuable road. We take carnage side by side, but Raggie has scrubbed a little, I can hear wheels close behind me though… Time to tuck! I pull away from Raggie and feel I have good exit speed from the corner, Kyle is RIGHT in my draft, but I’m rolling now. No-one gets to pull out on me and I am speeding to the line! Done!

A win at Danger Bay! Kyle got 2nd, Raggie 3rd and Scoot 4th. I had hoped to get a Coast medal on this trip, getting a gold in Thirties when I’m 39 is a real treat that will stay with me.

Time to head back up the track to watch the Open Class Finals! Max Capps has been strong here and arriving at Carnage out front for all his heats so far. We all wait to see what happens, Danger Dane the Pender local is in front, Max bringing him heat in a close second, Scoot tight in behind with Sawyer in 4th. Through Carnage it gets hectic, Max keeps the heat on Dane, but it’s too hot, PUCK DOWN, Max is DQ! He gets back in his tuck with Scoot in his draft…. Dane crosses the line in first, Scoot got the draft on Max and takes a solid second and Sawyer advances to third. No-one from Pender Harbour has won a Danger Bay before, this year it’s a clean sweep Pender Podium! Holy smoke is the crowd going nuts! Striker is screaming his head off and people have flooded the track! F*ck Yeah! This is a legendary result for what may well be the last Danger Bay in history!

The podiums are a blast! Lee Dansie has snagged his first Coast Medal in Masters’ Class, I get a Gold to take home and call my own. I’m standing with Mark Short chatting excitedly and it’s the slide comp results…. 3rd and 2nd get called up by Striker, but then he hands the mic over to Jody Wilcox mumbling “I don’t want any thing to do with this”. There is a bit of tension…

Jody has a spiel lined up about looking for something new that hasn’t been seen before, what’s this about? They call 1st place. It’s West, for doing a massive 30ft long footbreak! Madness, but that is what Danger Bay is about! The crowd get it and West is a DB veteran favourite, everybody goes nuts and laughs, I turn round but Mark has slipped away…the podium clears and Striker steps up again on the mic.

“I HAVE A VERY SPECIAL AWARD TO MAKE NOW!!! WHERE IS MARK SHORT!!! FOR A DECADE OF EXCELLENCE I AM AWARDING MARK FOR HIS OUTSTANDING SKATING!!!!”

Mark is already 40 meters away when his head whips round with a big grin!! The crowd goes nuts! Mark is on a podium of his own and is given a gold, silver and bronze medal; Strike heralds all that he has done and achieved in the years of pushing skateboarding, it’s an awesome moment and I’m stoked for Mark, someone who has inspired me over the years and still does. Mark has more than ten years on me, but still skates like a beast, I hope to still have his drive for skating when I’m in my 50s. My first ever race, Bude Classic 2001, I had to race Mark in a heat and I remember him from then, he is part of UKDH history and someone who has helped shaped what we do. It feels great to be part of this and UKDH has made its mark on this chapter of history….

 

Sunday is a free day, no skating is organised. It’s needed after party night. There is however a tradition. Scoot’s family open up their home and over 100 skaters descend for a BBQ. The main campsite has shutdown now and those staying on for Jake’s Rash are offered to set their tents up in the garden and make home where they may. The vibe is chilled and super nice. It’s a great time to actually get to talk to people and I get to catch the host, Scoot’s sister Heather, along with Carol Rubin, a person I have only talked to online until now. Striker has provided several flats of beer and the burgers are hand made. Again the vibe of Danger Bay shows itself to be a unique and welcoming event, a bunch of friends that have grown into a tribe. I hangout till dark and then slip away to try catch up on sleep. I have more skating to do in the morning.

Freeride day at Jakes Rash. I know the shape of the road, but my lines have been based on an open road without leathers. It’s a damn sight faster now and I have a lot to learn still!

Adam is stoked I’m there and lets me follow him to see his lines and gets me up to speed. I love this track, it’s so fun, you can skate hard here, but don’t come off, rocks await!

I take so many runs that I am losing count, I have done more than 12 and haven’t missed one yet, the track is becoming an old friend. Time for some food and cooling off, the sun is out and it’s in the mid twenties.

More runs, more smiles, more faces. I get a couple with Graham Buksa and we mix it nicely, checking each other out as we know we will race in Masters’ Class. Max Capps and I put speed suits on in the afternoon and take some seriously fast runs down the hill that leave me stoked for racing; Max was slaying the hill and his style definitely influenced how I skated that hill. After 20 something runs my legs were fading and sticking to the race lines got tough, time to call it a day. Raggie did an amazing job at turning the runs around, I don’t know if anyone managed to skate every run that day?

Race day and I am feeling good. I skate 4 practice runs and kept improving, I wish there was another freeride day! Power Lines, a left right combo that had been a little elusive, clicked into place for me that morning. In Sandman’s left I still wasn’t super clean, people could make a meter of road on me there.

Well time to race!

First two rounds went well with me crossing the line in 1st, with no-one bringing me heat.

The third round was hectic! Some great racing, three wide through Power Lines, and more passes made in the heat than I could count. I crossed the line in first, but only just!

Masters’ category started next round and it looked like I would have to choose between Open Class or Masters’ Class. A few voices chimed in for my corner, and Scoot leant Stripper Ben his truck to go and pick me up at the finish line and get me back up the top of the hill keeping it flowing, game on!

This got hectic for me, I had to race a six man heat in Masters to advance, then I had Masters’ six man final back to back with Open final, the day was hot and I had no cooling time between runs. I aced both rounds of the Masters, getting out front and holding it for a win. There was a battle behind me in the final, Graham was in second, but crashed on a bad bit of surface at the last right. Scoot and West had been so close that their boards touched a couple of times, but Raggie pipped West at the line, and in the end it was Scoot in 2nd and Raggie 3rd! With another Coast Medal under my belt, I headed for the Open Final.

The Open Final was Matt Noseworthey, Capps, Adam and myself. I had been in the mix with Adam and Max freeriding and had finished ahead of Matt last two races rounds, I felt I had a good shot at this.

Riders ready, set, GO! Brain fart. Don’t know what happened, I had had some good starts in my previous heats. This one was terrible, one of my all time worst!

Max and Adam were off! Luckily Matt seemed to be on the same page as me and we raced off together, with me rolling away from him before the first right kink.

For a moment I thought I might get in the draft, Max and Adam were battling and not on perfect lines, but then they were drafting each other too, not giving an inch. I settled in to try and skate my lines super clean and sat about 7 meters behind from the show in front of me, they were going hard!

The track passed in a blur with me keeping my head down as much as possible, the last cresting right and Max and Adam are just in front of me and I tuck hard for the finish line, head fully down. Blink goes the finish line, I look up, SHIT!!!! Max and Adam are tumbling down the road with their boards rolling in different directions taking up most of the track.

I swerve hard and manage to thread the needle without crashing into either of them. WTF happened? I shut down and head back up the track finding Max first, he is OK nothing injured but well ragged, Adam is further down the track, he too isn’t injured, but his helmet looks written off and he is shaken. They had come into the finish side by side, not yielding any road to each other, there had definitely been contact, with Adam a little ahead and Max making a pass at the line, they had gone down together hard. It got called Adam 1st, Max 2nd, neither were happy, but to protest would make them both DQ (Raggie’s Rules), so no official protest was made by either of them… It was a bit of bummer.

Ultimately I am glad neither of them were injured, when we crash like that, shit can happen. Those are the moments that can change the game for any of us, and as anyone knows who has been through significant injury, if you could rewind that moment in time, you would let it go….

That’s hard to level with racing, where winning is why we are there. Otherwise we would be at a freeride, not a race! The hard part is that we are racing our fellow DH family. There aren’t really that many of us, it’s a small world. We need all of us for there to be races to go to, because all our races are run by skaters for skaters. Events are all born from racing our buddies, some have grown into international events of prestige, and others remain core, but they are all the same. They are Downhill Family.

When we race we should try be mindful of that, without the people we are trying to beat, there is no race. So insuring that we don’t end up injured and out of action is the most important thing we can do to ensure there is still someone to race against. It’s an oxymoron. Race to win, race to race another day.

For me personally I hate crashing, especially if a fellow skater is injured, even if it’s not my fault and there was nothing I could do about it. The witnessing of crashes accumulates in my mind and ultimately I fear that they are what will erode my drive to race. What I’m trying to say is, look after each other out there, we are family.

The dust settles on Danger Bay and the chapter closes. Thanks to all those that showed me hospitality, Coast Longboard Crew you rock! I have only just left and I already want to come back…….